I began writing what would become my fantasy series, The Source Chronicles, in 1998.
A lot of work went into it, and before long I had completed the first three books. That, of course, led to the series becoming 5 books (instead of the original planned 4), but that’s neither here nor there.
I started to work on the 4th book, Guardians, in 2009, eleven years after starting the series.
But then I was offered an opportunity to write and publish a short story about pirates and magic for an anthology called Rum and Runestones.
That was an amazing experience. It led to a second story about pirates and magic in another anthology called Spells and Swashbucklers.
I had now been published twice. But the story I created for Spells and Swashbucklers, The Vapor Rogues, required a tremendous amount of worldbuilding in advance. It was a Steampunk world, and I felt the need to explore it further. Thus began The Vapor Rogues series and book one for it — Clouds of Authority.
As the years have gone by, I have written and published a whole lot of work. I am continuing to do so. However, both my edits for Harbinger — the 3 rdbook in the Source Chronicles series — and writing for Guardians took a backseat.
Since I have commissioned a new, professional cover and reformatted Seeker — and have done the same for Finder — I’m finally editing Harbinger (or specifically doing my edits before sending it to the editor). In fact, I aim to release Harbinger, at long last, in 2022.
Thus, it’s not long before I return to Guardians. A novel I haven’t touched since 2009. Much has changed for me — on many levels — over that time.
Accepting and working with stylistic changes
In the twelve years since I stopped writing Guardians, my writing style has changed. This began, however, about two-thirds of the way through writing Harbinger.
As I have mentioned prior, my first editor did more than just clean-up grammar and other issues in Seeker. She taught me many, many things I didn’t know. For example, she taught me to be cognizant of perspective — I used to either bounce around mid-chapter, or even take a more omnipotent approach that lacked clarity as to where I was telling the story from.
She also taught me how to be an editor, both for my work and that of others. I was writing Harbinger at the time — and the first major stylistic shift in my writing is obvious to me as I edit this.
However, twelve years of writing in multiple genres, getting numerous books edited, and overall time and experience have altered my style. Which means that my voice has changed.
This is, of course, perfectly natural. However, it is going to have an impact on the novel I haven’t touched since 2009 when I go back to it.
Rather than resist or deny this truth, I need to accept and work with my stylistic changes.
This means that I will have a choice. Edit what I’ve already done now — or pick up where I left off, keep writing, edit when complete. Either way, I know that numerous stylistic changes will be evident probably rather immediately.
Beyond stylistic changes, there are more fundamental changes that will impact not just what’s already written, but what I will write going forward on this unfinished work.
Approaching unfinished works anew
As I have been reformatting Seeker and Finder, I’ve gotten a good look at my former approach. Even after editing made many changes in my overall approach, lessons learned more recently impact current and planned future works.
For example, in my older works, I sometimes get wordy in descriptions. I over-detail where people are seated, what they look like, and other nuances that can slow the action. While there are certainly places for this — the more I write, the better I get at knowing when to employ them or not.
Harbinger and Guardians span about 10 years. As such, Harbinger got split into those two books — because it was becoming quite the tome. Guardians still has a long way to go and a lot of time to cover to reach the end.
One thing that is likely to happen is that I will streamline my process. Rather than jump a year or two ahead, get into multiple important (and less important) elements, I will likely focus more on driving the story to its conclusion. Nothing will be left out, per se, but some of my rambling ways will be trimmed.
Yes, I recognize that this will shift some of the tone in how the Source Chronicles gets completed. But writing is a growth process. The more you write, the more you learn. And if it makes more sense to edit first than to continue the novel when I do return to it — I’ll cross that bridge then.
How do you return to unfinished works?
Sometimes you step away because you lose interest in what you’re working on. Or, as in my case, other projects overtake the work you’re doing. To be fair, I have multiple unfinished works that will likely NEVER be finished. And that’s okay, too.
It’s important when you choose to return to your unfinished works to accept that who you are now isn’t who you were, then. You’ve changed. Not just your style or your skill, I mean YOU have changed.
Who I was in 2009 when I stopped working on Guardians is NOT who I am — here and now — is in no way who I was then. In lots of ways.
Since 2009, I have moved twice, gotten married, started writing full-time, experienced a global pandemic and a terrifying presidency, and gained and lost numerous friends. That’s mostly involving the externals.
Who I am, how I approach my life has changed even more than that.
My life philosophy has shifted tremendously since 2009. Thus, the MJ Blehart who will return to Guardians soon is not the same one who left it behind twelve years ago.
For some people, acknowledging this is terrifying. Because, overall, change is terrifying to many people.
But change is how we grow. Thus, when you accept this, you can work with it. Which means you can return to your unfinished works and complete what you began.
Finally — this is not just applicable to writing. This is true of all the arts you can imagine. Also — there are times where returning to your work makes no sense at all. Thus, walking away is acceptable and reasonable to do.
When returning to unfinished works, recognize that there’s been change. Don’t resist it — recognize it, accept it, or change it anew.
Originally published at https://www.mjblehart.com on March 27, 2021.